Do you know the story of the Hitler Diaries? A shamelessly brilliant German got into the business of selling forged (and some genuine) Nazi memorabilia to sympathisers. In the 1980s, his masterstroke was to handwrite 60 volumes of, largely mundane, diaries, which he claimed were the personal memoirs of Adolf Hitler. He sold them for millions.
The Times was the first UK publication to verify the authenticity of the diaries, paving the way for their publication by their sister paper, the Sunday Times. Both papers had a bit of form in this area, promoting and buying rights to fake Mussolini diaries. The Hitler Diaries were a sensation when the Sunday Times ran them, at the time, it was regarded as the story of the decade.
Within weeks, the world knew the diaries were fake and wondered how the Times group could so easily be duped, after falsely promoting yet another fascist dictator’s documents.
An entertaining dramatisation of these events, Selling Hitler, was broadcast in 1991, which portrayed Nazi sympathisers and a few historians as gullible fools, but it reserved a different verdict to the Sunday Times.
The newspaper paid £750k for UK rights to fake documents. On the surface, this looks ridiculous, but the point the TV dramatization made was that the authenticity of the ‘news’ was neither-here-nor-there, enough people bought the newspaper to make the exercise an overwhelming commercial success.
You and I may think The Times made a fool of themselves yesterday by getting a story so wrong, that HMRC took to Twitter last night to protest, “As widely reported today and to clarify: HMRC won against Rangers’ tax avoidance in the Supreme Court, and did not miscalculate anything”.
But we are missing the point. The Times newspapers know that the authenticity of the story stands independent of its commercial viability. Their story yesterday was a commercial success, perhaps their biggest in Scotland for years. Fake news has been successful news for Times publications since they bought the Mussolini diaries in 1968 and nothing has changed since.
And yes, gullible loons are still prepared to believe any revisionist nonsense. The truth is, Hitler, Mussolini and Rangers were each solely responsible for their own destruction, no matter what Times Group newspapers erroneously imply.